I have come up with the following answer for you about finding cheap properties for around RMB4000. Hope that this helps.
I think the best advice that you will receive on this matter is that ‘Yes’ you can get properties on this budget, but don’t expect the place to be the Ritz nor in the classy areas of downtown. There are some tricks to finding decent places on this budget and here are some that you could try:
If you want to use an agent, find one that you like and then give them the following proposition. Commit to them as your sole agent. Explain exactly what you would consider as far as quality etc. and then offer to pay them a commission on top of any commission that they get from a landlord on the place.
Why are agents so reluctant to show cheap properties? Because most of the people who they show these properties to aren’t realistic and don’t end taking anything. The time wasted showing cheap properties isn’t worth it when the payoff comes. Make the payoff worthwhile and you will be availed of their services.
On the subject of agents, don’t be tricked into believing that you will get cheaper or better places through local Chinese agents. I have seen what they have to offer and those places are generally cheap for a reason. Some of them are livable but they are just plain run down. Bear in mind that I was seeing much more expensive places than what you are looking for, and therefore I can only expect that the ones that you would see would be much worse.
Forget about old houses. Don’t bother looking at any old places or anything within only a few minutes of downtown. These places will be within your budget for a reason – and that is that they are downright nasty. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can get a nice new decorated old style place in the middle of the city on your budget. The cheapest decorated old places will go for over RMB5000-6000, and even these will be pretty small.
Be willing to live in an apartment in an area that is within easy reach of downtown by subway or bus, but slightly off of main transportation links. Examples might include the south Xu Jia Hui Area, around the train station, Zhong Shan Park and the area south of the Bund.
I personally wouldn’t live in Hongqiao or Pudong – so couldn’t recommend that you do, but it might be worth a look if you are interested.
Be willing to commit to a full year lease. Whilst a six-month lease might be good for you, the landlord is unlikely to give you the best deal possible. Go for the full term and you can get a better deal, which means a more expensive place negotiated down to your budget.
Finally, ask to see at least one place that is more expensive. You never know but you may just realize that the extra money spent is worth it.